The Rise of Online Video Provides A New Channel for Your CSR Story Sharper Lens

Dru DeSantis
Dru DeSantis

For companies that want to convey the impact of their corporate citizenship efforts—whether measured in sustainability initiatives, volunteer hours or dollars—online video can be among the most engaging, cost-effective and persuasive mediums.

Video, with its immediacy, popularity, and viral potential, represents a unique opportunity to capture the breadth of CSR’s impact, provide an intimate look at the people involved, and reach a receptive audience.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of video over any other medium is its ability to bring audiences into the story. The phrase “moving pictures” doesn’t merely refer to images with action, but bespeaks video’s unparalleled ability to move audiences through storytelling.

Video simultaneously engages its audience with imagery, voices and music, creating a human connection and an emotional response to something genuine—a smile, a laugh, the less-than-perfect, but authentic, delivery of an important thought.

A company’s philanthropy, volunteerism or sustainability efforts often represent its best chance to make a positive emotional connection with employees and the public. After all, CSR is about people—employees, volunteers, beneficiaries and decision-makers.

With one short video, a company can highlight the causes it champions, celebrate its volunteers, motivate employees to support its CSR efforts, showcase the beneficiaries and tell stories that otherwise wouldn’t get told.

When done correctly, video reinforces the believability and authenticity of the CSR message and casts a halo of positive light over the corporate brand. A company’s social responsibility work can engage employees not only to support CSR activities, but also to understand the company’s unique culture and the important role it plays in local, national and global communities.

Having a strong reputation for CSR can also be a powerful recruiting tool. Corporate recruiters increasingly report that prospects are asking about the company’s CSR commitment in interviews.


How can companies most effectively leverage video to tell their CSR story with authenticity and impact? The true power of any CSR video lies in how it is crafted.

We call effective videos that are crafted to deliver targeted, strategic messages “smart videos.”

Smart videos combine all the elements available in the medium of film—narrative, character, setting, compelling evidence, music, narration, pacing—to tell a focused story that is both authentic and engaging.

Most important, smart videos are conceived and produced with distribution in mind. They work effectively across multiple platforms, from the Web and social media to events and email communications.

Smart videos also resonate with the right audiences. This means that key messaging has to be developed before any footage is shot. To do this, companies must prioritize.

What are your most important messages? Who are the best people to deliver these messages? What are the must-have locations? What is the call to action?

As a CSR, marketing or communications professional, you are the expert on your audience and the messages you want them to hear. Your job is to articulate this clearly to your video production team. Their job is to translate your goals into a compelling video. Trust them to do this. Don’t be afraid to let go a little.

However, when it comes to strategic issues, the production team definitely wants and needs your input.

Count on being present during key filmed interviews, especially those with senior management.

You’ll watch playbacks to evaluate footage and suggest new interview questions or angles. Your involvement will help deliver more powerful messages without compromising the all-important sense of authenticity.

Finally, when it comes to crafting your CSR video, production values matter.

Your audiences—whether employees, recruits, policymakers, customers or community members—are regular consumers of video. Their standards, like yours, are very high.

If your CSR video looks poorly produced (i.e., bad lighting, poor sound quality, choppy editing, etc.) it will take the viewer out of the experience you are trying to create.

And it will not reflect well on either your CSR efforts or your corporate brand.


For any CSR campaign, it is best to leverage the broadest possible range of media to engage employees and external stakeholders at multiple touch points. Phase communications over time to build momentum. A CSR video can play an important role in this media mix.

For example, video can be a powerful tool for an employee volunteerism engagement campaign, helping to build interest and excitement with calls to action that motivate employees to sign up and get involved.

Whether this is deployed through email, social media, intranet or even on video screens in elevators, lobbies and break rooms, a well-made video is an effective tool for generating buzz for the upcoming program.


The same video can be used internally for onboarding, recruiting, in town halls, or on a company’s intranet. Externally it can live on a company’s website, be featured on social media channels, provide B-roll for TV, be part of a news release or shown at investo-relations meetings or shareholder conferences.

With dubbing, reediting and minor changes, you can make regionally appropriate versions for local use, both for internal and external audiences.

While producing the requisite broadcast-quality video takes an up-front investment of time, money and other resources, the savings lie in the economies of scale.

As companies find that CSR is becoming a larger part of their value proposition—both internally and externally—the need to communicate effectively to employees, volunteers, customers, policymakers, media and other stakeholders becomes more urgent.

Video, because of its adaptability and the ease with which it can be shared, is among the most engaging, cost-effective, and persuasive media for telling the CSR story. PRN

 (This article is in excerpt from PR News’ Corporate Social Responsibility Guidebook. To order a copy, please go to

Reel Them In

▶ According to NPD Group, watching online video in fixed locations outside the home, such as in hotels, airports, coffee shops, etc., is expected to grow to 154 million users by 2015.

▶ The majority of Internet users (75%) now watch video content online via any device at least once a month.*

▶ The average time spent per day with online video grew to 25 minutes this year, compared with 13 minutes in 2011 and six minutes in 2010.*

▶ The number of people who watch video content on their mobile phones is expected to grow 201 million people, up from 182 million people in 2013 and 172 million people in 2012.*

▶ Digital video ad spending is projected to grow to nearly $7 billion in 2015, from $4.1 billion in 2013.*

* Source: eMarketer


Dru DeSantis is the creative director at DB Productions. She can be reached at

This article appeared in the September 16 issue of PR News. Subscribe to PR News today to receive weekly comprehensive coverage of the most fundamental PR topics from visual storytelling to crisis management to media training.